Have you always wanted to learn another language? Can you imagine yourself abroad, being able to talk to the local people in their own dialect? Getting involved with a European Solidarity Corps project is a great way of boosting all sorts of skills – including languages!
With the European Day of Languages coming up on 26 September, we’re sharing how the experience has benefited some of our volunteers, who are now able to communicate in a language other than their own.
Living abroad is an immersive experience, but you won’t be doing it alone. Check out what our volunteers say about the support available, which could help you to make the most of your placement.
Brushing up skills
British volunteer Sam Huckstep took part in a European Solidarity Corps placement for the French Red Cross in Orléans for an entire year. During this time, he was able to brush up on his language skills. Sam learned a bit of French at school, but had mostly forgotten it by the time he reached university.
With the European Solidarity Corps, Sam had the chance to improve his French, help people and gain experience in a field he’d like to work in.
“I’d spoken a little bit of French before I came, and now I’m able to have conversations, which is wonderful; and that’s something which I really cannot overstate, as being able to talk to people in another language and understand them, when it would otherwise be impossible, is just fantastic. So that’s something which I’m really thankful for,” he said.
Barriers and solutions
A lack of sufficient language skills is the main hindering factor highlighted by young people regarding going abroad for more than two weeks, according to research.
But did you know that participants in Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps long-term activities abroad can access Online Linguistic Support (OLS)?
"Being able to talk to people in another language and understand them, when it would otherwise be impossible, is just fantastic."
This platform provides participants with the opportunity to assess their knowledge of the main language used in the placement, before and after their stay abroad. They also have the opportunity to follow an online course to improve their language level, both before and during their placement, at their own pace, in a flexible and easy way.
For participants in a European Solidarity Corps project whose main mobility language is not yet available on the OLS, this type of support can be provided in a different way. There is a specific grant for an organisation who can arrange any required linguistic preparation and language learning during the placement – this can take place online, or face-to-face (in classes or one-to-one lessons), or a combination of the two.
In real life
During a placement, you will be able to put what you learn into practice not only in the hours you spend with the hosting organisation, but also in everyday life. That’s an invaluable aspect of learning a new language in a different country, while also experiencing the culture.
Your hosting organisation might also motivate you to crack the code (in a nice way!). This is one of the many memories that British volunteers Joel Ireland and Molly Gannon have of volunteering at a bear sanctuary in Croatia.
Ivan, the host, was always there to support their group. He really wanted the volunteers to learn about the Croatian culture and language, so he would create shopping lists with them, and would only put items that they said in Croatian onto the list.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn a new language, a new country, a new culture. To learn about others, but also learn about yourself. The European Solidarity Corps is a great experience."
Volunteers who came to the UK for their European Solidarity Corps placement also had the opportunity to improve their English while helping communities.
Lenka Lasotová, who undertook a placement with the YMCA in the UK, enjoyed being in a foreign country, meeting new people and talking to them in English, while also getting to know new places and the local culture.
“It is a great experience to try something new, go out from your comfort zone, learn new things and improve the language,” she said.
Amélia Kared, from France, volunteered with Leonard Cheshire Disability in their Edinburgh branch. She is very enthusiastic about her European Solidarity Corps experience, which helped improve her English and led to new exploration.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn a new language, a new country, a new culture. To learn about others, but also learn about yourself. The European Solidarity Corps is a great experience. I improved a lot, my English skills and my personal skills.”
“I liked it so much that I decided to stay in Scotland after my project, and stayed working in the same organisation and same department. I'll advise this kind of project 100% to my friends. We had a lot of ups and downs this year with the pandemic, but I think because of this experience, we grew up faster,” Amélia said.